Sunday, March 30, 2014

"...two dead fish."

Wednesday, March 30, 1864, near Liberty Mills

The rain. It does nothing but rain. There is nothing but rain. I have heard of such a thing as sunshine but I cannot remember ever seeing it. It has not snowed for a while and we are thankful for that. The rain, however, is quite cold. A good number of us are sick with catarrh because of the cold. Hancock, Castles, Holton, Crenshaw and myself are all confined to our cabin as being unfot unfit for any duty including that of picket, so says Assistant Surgeon Keith.

This places an unfair amount of work upon the healthy, who are not too far from being sick themselves. Hancock and Holton bravely get out of the cabin, defying orders from the medical officer and go to the Rapidan to pull picket so the line along the river will not be otherwise so thin. There has been wet clothing hanging near the fireplace every day for two weeks.

There is so very little for us to do while the catarrh controls us. We play cards but never for money as we have none. We all spend countless hours picking the little seam squirrels from our uniforms. We throw them into the fire where they make a very satisfying pop. We take needle and thread in hand to effect repairs to our uniforms. There are many repairs. Castles is a bit more addept adopt  talented with a needle than the rest of us as he can darn stockings. The rest of us d--n but cannot darn.

There was some excitement. All of these winter cabins have a fireplace, some made from sticks and mud or barrels or boxes. With all this wood, something is bound to catch fire.  Last week, it was our turn. We had only a very few seconds to escape being burned to death. The damage was not severe as here was a good amount of snow just outside to throw on the fire. The worst thing that happened was that the chimney collapsed into our pot of supper. We bedded that night hungry, wet and cold.

We have been subsisting on some small amount of corn meal and almost no meat. Castles found two dead fish that had washed up upon shore while on picket. We ate one and used the other as bait in a trap in the hopes of catching a coon or a possum. What we caught was a skunk which we chose not to consume.

Lieutenant Williamson brought our platoon two parcels and a small crate, each containing contributions from home. None were addressed to any one person but all were for the benefit of we Lancaster Hornets. The crate was from the Ladies'Aid Society of Lancaster and the two parcels were from the Chester Soldier's Relief Association. We have been grateful recipients of their generosity before. The crate did not last long as it was taken apart for firewood.

Inside the crate were two crocks of pickled cucumbers and one crock of pickled okra, which, despite the careful packing in cotton and sawdust, had broken, spoiling the okra. Five of us in the platoon received new cotton shirts, including Terry and Hancock. There were six pairs of cotton stockings and two pair of wool, four pair of drawers and some four dozen handkerchiefs in every design and color known to womanhood. We could tell that they were made from scraps but we did not care.

Neither of the parcels contained any victuals. Lieutenant Williamson, with the help or Corporal Flynn, passed out one dozen pairs of cotton stockings, three cotton shirts, fifteen pairs of drawers, a dozen towels, two kepis, two wool blankets, eight wool scarves and four pair of mittens. While being grateful for what the lovely ladies back home sent to us, we were disappointed that there were no trousers, jackets or overcoats.

From all this bounty, I had received nothing. Lieutenant Williamson must have seen the look on my face as he then gave me something. It was a Confederate flag, our battle flag, tied to a stick. Also tied to the stick was a note. It was written by the same hands as made the flag. It was on patriotic stationary which I have not seen in some time. It read:

To My Soldier,
With my own hands I have made this flag for you. It is small as I am small, too. I pray that it will help you as you fight to protect us from the Yankees
Your friend,
Rose May Talbird
Torbet's Store P.O.

My soldier, she says. I am hers. She sent a cased photograph of herself. She looks all of six or seven. Her hand was quite good for one so young. The Talbirds are an influential family from Beaufort. I wonder if they were among those who fled Beaufort from the Yankees two years ago.

Of course, I will carry this flag and the photograph with me. They will warm me as well as  a scarf and mittens.

I Send You These Few Lines-

The true identity of the little girl pictured above is unknown. Her name, Rose May Talbird, is made up. The Talbirds, however, were a prominent family in the Beaufort area. Her, "hand", refers to her penmanship. Torbert's Store Post Office in in Chester County, SC, south of the North Carolina line. I have also seen it spelled Torbit's.

The two relief organizations named in this entry existed during the war as did a great many others. The contents listed here are very typical of what was actually sent from home.

Chimney fires in winter quarters were always something to worry about. The description of the weather is based on contemporary accounts. Seam squirrels are lice. Catarrh is an old term for a cold.

Lieutenant Williamson, Corporal Flynn, Castles, Terry, Hancock, Holton and Crenshaw are names that will be familiar to long time readers of this diary. All did serve in Company I of the 12th South Carolina Infantry. The term, "Lancaster Hornets", above is the nickname for Company I. Keith was one of several medical officers to serve with the 12th during the war.

The bad weather continues to plague those soldiers along both sides of the Rapidan River in the early Spring of 1864. Large scale movements of men, horses and material cannot happen until the roads dry out which might not happen until...tomorrow?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

" is twenty cents too much to shoot a Yankee."

Tuesday, March 15, 1864, Along the Rapidan

The weather has gotten a bit better, according to some of us. It does not snow as much as it did in December or January but the rain shows little sign of letting up. Puddles are everywhere and everyone is wet. Coughing is a sign of a well soldier. Coughing and wheezing both is a sign of a sick one. Everyone in our mess has a tinge of something. Corporal Flynn is horse and we are the better off for it.

We moved here from another area along the river because the supply of firewood was getting rather low. We had thought that moving here would keep us all in chunks until Spring arrived. Spring had better shake a leg lest we be forced to move again. None of us wish to have to build yet another cabin this winter. I cannot keep my feet dry.

The company is growing by a little bit. There is Julius Porter who transferred to us from a Louisiana regiment, and there is C. D. Short, who has joined us from a Mississippi regiment. John McKay wandered into camp from somewhere and signed up. Bill Marshall enlisted in Lancaster and arrived some short time ago. I do not know any of them too well. None of them were assigned to our platoon.

Jeffie Turner, Sam Brown and John Hagins have returned from furlough. John Neill has come back from the hospital. There was a great surprise when John Langley came in late last month from a prisoner camp. We had thought him dead.

But there have been some subtractions from the company. John Plyer and Bob Steele have gone on furlough. Draffin was given a medical discharge because of his asthma. He will probably wind up in a home guard outfit back home. This place and this weather have both been bad for him.

This has been an expensive time for a few. Cauthen was fined two dollars and a quarter for ruining nine cartridges.  McAteer has his pay shortened by a quarter-dollar for losing one cartridge. At a quarter-dollar apiece , it is twenty cents too much to shoot a Yankee.

Turner's mess was very glad to see him as he brought back some eight or ten pounds of potatoes from his time on furlough. I offered him twenty dollars, Confederate for a few potatoes but the rest of his mess intervened and said no. I could have bought the entire amount for a quarter-eagle gold but I did not think it safe to let on that I had gold. When no one is looking, I need to see just how much I have left.

Two days ago, our squad was pulling picket along the river when I saw what I thought was that same Yankee that I had met in the middle of the river some short time ago. I hollered to him and he hollered back. He asked if I had any tobacco. I have never used the weed but I did not tell him that. He offered coffee and a newspaper in return. Mathis threw me his tobacco pouch saying that he wanted to read something of the world beyond this river. I took his pouch and then gave him my socks. This time, I might get my brogans wet but at least I would have dry socks.

I hollered back to him to meet me in the middle of the river with the coffee. He did and we made our exchange of treasures. We did not talk long as he said the water was cold. I could have told him about my trick with the socks but thought better of it.

By the time I returned to our picket, everyone else had started boiling water in their tin cups in anticipation of the brown nectar. Mathis had started some water in my own cup. He said that if I ever gave him my socks again that he would boil them in my own cup. As coffee was being prepared, the news was read.

It was the New York Herald and not too old. There has been some fighting in the breakaway area called West Virginia. It gave us comfort to know that there is resistance there to Yankee tyranny. According to the Herald, Longstreet is still in east Tennessee. Our Lee must be nervous with so much of his army tied up in Tennessee. There is a new general, name of Grant, that is coming from the West to assume command. Lee has beaten up all the generals here in the East; now it is the turn of the western generals to be whipped by our Lee. The paper said that he would be made a lieutenant general, the first since Washington. When our Lee finishes with this general, he will be a lieutenant.

I Send You These Few Lines.

There's something that I neglected in the last diary entry. The Yankee that Tooms met in the river, the same one that he met in this entry, said that he was an undertaker. I neglected to clarify that the term undertaker, in this instance, did not refer to one who cared for the dead. An old definition for undertaker is one who undertakers to perform a project or job.

All the soldiers mentioned who were sick, going to or coming from furlough, the new enlistees, and etc., were taken from the muster rolls for the time period, held by the National Archives in College Park Maryland. The fines imposed on Cauthen and McAteer were also listed in those records.

Julius Porter had transferred to the 12th from Company C, 2nd Louisiana. C.D. Short had transferred from Company B, 48th Mississippi. I have found nothing to indicate why they transferred. Family? Friends? During this winter of 1863-64, the Confederacy pushed hard for enlistments to add to the ranks of the shrinking armies. John McKay is one such person.

John B. Langley was wounded on the first day of Gettysburg the previous July. He had been left behind and captured. He was exchanged in late February.

Longstreet and most of his corps were sent west the previous fall to assist Bragg in Tennessee. Yes, Lee does miss him.

The gold Tooms refers to comes from when he wiped out his savings plus some from his leasing of his home to Reverend Walker, the rector of St. Helena's Episcopal Church, mentioned in the August 27, 1861 entry in Greyback Diary. Has it really been more than two years ago that this blog was started?